COVID-19: Finding your way forward with UnitedHealthcare Global

There are a number of priorities to consider when building a plan to return to the workplace — from understanding international and local health policy guidelines to effectively communicating with employees before, during and after the transition.

And, while each worksite is likely to present different challenges, there are 7 priorities to consider that may help create a safer and healthier experience for those involved

1.) Confirm your community is ready

A clear understanding of community conditions is critical as you begin planning.

  • Check with international and local agencies for guidelines including the World Health Organization (WHO)1, U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention2, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control3, Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) in the U.S. and the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) outside the U.S.
  • Review key indicators of community stability such as a continued 10- to 14-day moving average decrease in new cases.

2.) Assess your workspace readiness

94% of businesses are enhancing cleaning and disinfection approaches in the workplace.4

  • Prepare personal protective equipment as appropriate by occupation.
  • Establish OSHA and ICOH recommended cleaning protocols.
  • Obtain support services trained in decontamination in the event of a case of COVID-19.
  • Create physical distancing by following your local government guidelines (most recommend a minimum of 1 metre+) around desk/work areas.
  • Modify open floor plans by adding partitions.
  • Display reminder signs of new guidelines throughout the building.

3.) Prepare employees for return

62% of businesses are changing shifts and workgroups to improve physical distancing5

  • Design a return-to-workplace approach for your local and international population, which can include a staggered return and fewer employees on site.
  • Revise worksite policies as needed.
  • Determine screening and testing policies, and the plan to carry them out.
  • Establish guidelines for when a symptomatic employee must stay at home.
  • Plan your response to a report of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.

4.) Communicate the plan to employees

Clearly sharing your plan will help set employee expectations. 

  • Emphasise your commitment to safety, health, education and training to employees.
  • Plan for frequent basic reminders such as physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and wearing masks if appropriate.
  • Share local and international resources available to employees.
  • Encourage employees to use the free COVID-19 symptom checkers on or the CDC website.6
  • Advise employees to consult their medical provider for concerning symptoms.

5.) Begin the return-to-work process

Further, develop your approach to assist employees on and off-site. 

  • Identify high-risk employees to allow them to stay home.
  • Provide comprehensive training for on-site and international employees to help minimise their risk of exposure.
  • Reinforce the importance of proper hand-washing.
  • Educate on respiratory hygiene including how to cover sneezes and coughs.

6.) Monitor your progress

Observe closely and be prepared to adjust your strategy if necessary.

  • Conduct frequent audits for building sanitation and distancing practices.
  • Inform employees with symptoms of COVID-19 that they MUST stay at home and get tested.
  • Have a plan in place to support employees if an outbreak does occur.
  • Consider tightening restrictions and stepping back reintegration if needed.

7.) Support physical and mental health needs

84% of businesses are reminding their employees about the availability of mental health services and programmes7

  • Establish a clear and comprehensive approach to physical, mental and emotional health support and care.
  • Help reduce stigma around seeking support for mental health conditions.
  • Provide virtual care solutions for both physical and mental health needs.

For more detailed information, you can read our full guidelines or view our placemat

The Return to Work Screening Tool is provided and administered by UnitedHealthcare Global Medical (UK) Limited.


4. Which of the following measures are companies taking to protect the health of your on-site employees? Mercer survey, April 2020
5. Which of the following measures are companies taking to protect the health of your on-site employees? Mercer survey, April 2020
7. Which of the following measures are companies taking to protect the health of your on-site employees? Mercer survey, April 2020